Some Explorations Of Words-Concepts-Ideas (May-June 1998)
DEFINITIONS: Words/ideas/concepts/models created to identify, describe, explain, and try to predict the consequences of our experiences of ourselves and of the world, to facilitate dealing with both. They are also used to communicate with other life forms which are able to function at levels of consciousness similar enough to permit the mutual understanding of the concepts.
THEORIES/BELIEFS: Systems (organized, related collections) of ideas/concepts which attempt to define (identify, describe, explain, and predict) ourselves and our world. The theories are accepted/believed based on past personal experiences, both internal and external, from the examples and instructions of our living and non-living environment. Even at the human level of consciousness, most theories/beliefs remain subconscious, where they produce automatic responses.
MODELS: Three dimensional objects, two dimensional pictures, sets of numbers, words, or other signs and symbols designed to provide meaning. Definitions are models. They can easily produce a “synonym trail” which defines a series of abstract words (related to non-physical concepts) by other words which eventually form a circle that may never be connected to any non-verbal experience So far, no single model has proved adequate to describe and explain all of the world, but many models can be useful as long as we recognize that they are partial, incomplete, and temporary.
ABSTRACT: Words/ideas/concepts related to non-physical/non-material experience.
MEANING: The identification, description, explanation, and (when possible) prediction of future outcomes of experiences. Words that give a name to a physical object or a physical sensation are relatively easy to define and they usually communicate their intended meanings effectively. Words used to name abstract concepts may not only fail to communicate the intended meanings: they are often interpreted as carrying very different meanings because the listener or reader has a very different concept.
EXPERIENCE: What we feel and/or think. The word “feeling” is used for both physical sensations in the physical world and emotions which theoretically are an essential part of consciousness in both this and other worlds. Experience in the physical world is always a mixture of feeling and thinking (if subconscious processing of information is included in the definition of thinking). The relative proportion of feeling and thinking in any experience can vary enormously.
FEELING/EMOTION: A variety of experiences classed as positive or negative, “I like, enjoy, want it” or “I don’t like or enjoy it and want to avoid it.” A state of minimal emotion is called indifference.
THINKING: Receiving and processing information, largely on the subconscious level even in humans who are able to be self-conscious. Relatively recent work has shown such processing and responding to information at the cellular level.
REALITY: personal experience is the only reality, the only FACT, that anyone can know. But personal experience is immediately, automatically, and usually subconsciously evaluated and interpreted by the experiencer. At the human level of consciousness, the experience is given a name and often an elaborate description and explanation. Less complex levels of consciousness, including humans functioning at the subconscious level, may simply rate/judge the experience as pleasant/painful, familiar/unknown, safe/dangerous, manageable or not, etc. Interpretations/evaluations are always based on the theories/beliefs of the experiencer. Experiences are facts. Theories/beliefs are not facts. They are attempts to describe, explain, and try to predict something about an Infinite that is probably beyond our ability to conceive at the human level of consciousness.
The following definitions are my attempt to give meaning to a few abstract concepts commonly used in metaphysical and spiritual communication. The only way to avoid “synonym trails” is to keep returning to our own “facts,” personal experiences.
SPIRIT: The creating power in and transcending the physical world. The evolving Whole which is in the process of manifesting (experiencing) in multiple levels of reality its previously unmanifested potentials. As the Whole, Sprit has to include pain and what humans call evil or sin. To be more spiritual means to be more inclusive in our understanding of the Whole, though we may choose not to personally experience all of its potentials.
THE WHOLE: All that is, was, will, or could be experienced.
CREATIVITY: To conceive, design, and/or produce something new.
CONSCIOUSNESS: Also named awareness. The capacity to feel emotion (desire/aversion) and to receive, process, and respond to information. Most consciousness in the physical world is subconscious, not self-conscious. Its responses are automatic, directed by habits, instincts, and/or physically coded (genetic) programming. What is called “will” is sustained or long-term desire, not a separate category of consciousness.
INFORMATION: Experiences which can be physical, emotional, cognitive, and/or spiritual. Cognitive experiences use signs, symbols, concepts, models, which point to or try to describe the world to (hopefully) facilitate the efforts of life forms to attain their desires and avoid their aversions. Information can be received and responded to on the physical level (touch, sight, sound, smell, taste, chemical, electrical, magnetic, etc.) or on the non-physical levels called “psychic” as a general term.
PSYCHIC: Forms of reality which transcend the space-time matrix in which the physical world functions. Physical connections are normally created when there is proximity in space and/or time. Psychic connections transcend space-time. They involve similar/related meaning/information and/or similar/related emotions (variants of desire/aversion). A physically individualized (but not psychically separate) expression of consciousness experiencing fear/love/hate etc. resonates with the same emotion everywhere and everywhen, so the experience of the emotion is intensified until the experiencing/expressing consciousness changes to a different emotion. Similarly, information is connected to related information, so the expressing consciousness continues to expand its awareness in that area until its attention focus changes. This connection of related information permits an astronomer to discover an asteroid when he or she is mentally connected so it can be given an appropriate name.
Problems are possible if the experiencing consciousness is unable to discriminate between what is psychic information relevant in psychic levels of reality and what is relevant to the space-time part of reality. Many descriptions of past, present, or future events which are psychically “real” on what can be loosely called “astral” levels have been mistakenly believed to apply to the physical world. This produces a lot of prophets with egg on their faces. “Real,” “factual” experiences can take place on any of many levels of consciousness, without being part of other levels.
SPACE: The three dimensional area in which the physical world functions.
TIME: A mystery. Along with space, it seems to be the method used by consciousness to avoid experiencing the Whole simultaneously, to permit differentiation and discrimination, to permit exploring different unmanifested (not yet personally experienced) potentials which are part of the Whole, for the fun of the creativity of experiencing new combinations.
SEPARATION: A potential experience of individualized expressions of consciousness in the material world after space-time was created by some (higher? broader? deeper? more complex? more advanced? more powerful? wiser? more daring?) level of consciousness. (Don’t ask me how.) Separation is experienced at the physical and cognitive levels where it permits differentiation and discrimination. There is no separation at the subconscious, emotional, or spiritual (most inclusive) levels.
LIFE: The name we give to physically individualized (but not psychically separate) expressions of consciousness functioning/experiencing in the physical part of reality. Inorganic matter (rocks, clouds) is affected by the world around it but it has a limited number of possible reactions. The input of each specific force (internal or external) was originally thought by science to produce a single specific result. Machines became the primary model for a linear world where single causes produced single results. Materialistic science initially tried to force everything physical into this linear model of mechanistic matter/energy, believing that complete knowledge of physical substances and the physical laws which governed them would permit accurate predictions of all future events. Current work with Chaos and Complexity theory shows that the future states of even simple, non-linear inorganic systems cannot be predicted precisely. Research with quantum theory pictures a world of probabilities which has yet to be integrated successfully into the preferred models of the macro-world, so it presents an additional challenge to the deterministic model of the physical world. Life, from the most primitive one-celled organisms up, clearly has a repertoire of responses which can be made to the same stimulus. LIFE CAN LEARN.
LEARNING: The ability to make a different response to the same stimulus following an information-providing experience. A pleasant experience or information that promises a future one can lead to repeating a response while a painful experience can lead to changing the response. Inorganic matter does not learn, as far as we know, though it is conceivable that learning could be occurring prior to the ability to demonstrate it by altering responses following experiences. Demonstrable, conscious learning occurs when we associate our responses with subsequent consequences. Learning mostly takes place at the subconscious level and often involves erroneous associations/conclusions, so repeated experiences are required to “get it right.” Or it just takes repeated efforts to change habits even after we have accurately grasped what actions are inviting what results.
EVOLUTION: A scientific theory describing the process of gradual changes over time. Continuity in changes over time. As originally conceived, the process was thought to be smooth and gradual small changes. More recent theories include “punctuated” evolution, long relatively static periods interspersed by relatively sudden, major changes. For non-biological matter, this can describe the formation and aging of galaxies, stars, planets, etc. For life, it involves increases in complexity which may occur in the repertoire of possible responses, in the extent of awareness, in the capacity to learn, in versatility, flexibility, and creativity, leading to self-awareness at the human level, in some of the great apes, and perhaps in dolphins. Considerable evidence supports this theory in the physical part of the world.
PAIN/PLEASURE: The teachers of consciousness in the physical world. Each physically individualized (but not psychically separate) expression of consciousness has its own capacities and needs which must be met to permit personal survival. Tube worms live by volcanic vents in the ocean in conditions of extreme heat and pressure that would immediately kill an air-breathing animal from the surface of earth. Humans have developed technology to maintain a chosen temperature. Some humans consider a temperature in the 60s Fahrenheit to be pleasurable while others feel uncomfortable in anything less than 75 degrees. Discomfort grading into pain is the warning signal, providing the information needed to sustain physical life. Extreme experiences, whether physical, emotional, cognitive, or spiritual, end by removing the individualized expression of consciousness from the physical level of existence.
It is obvious how extremes of heat or cold first warn with pain and eventually destroy the physical body. The other forms of extremism are less obvious. Their destructive effects are usually due to their domination blocking the organism from meeting other needs, including the need to deal with different life forms. Extreme emotion of any kind, including love or devotion to God, can lead to one ignoring or denying the physical body’s needs for air, water, food, shelter, exercise, etc. An attempt to function only in the intellect can take longer but end the same way by neglecting physical needs. Use it or lose it applies to everything, including muscles, joints, and the brain. For most life forms in the physical world, a lack of information or the failure or inability to use information about other life forms is the immediate cause of an exit from the physical world. Life feeds on other life at every level of complexity above the bottom rungs of the food chain which feed on inorganic matter. At the human level, the stated goal of many “spiritual” systems is to attain a state of samadhi/bliss which permits a permanent escape from the physical world. If our theories/beliefs define the physical world as evil or simply unalterably painful, therefore as a place to escape, celibacy and suicide are spiritual common sense.
However, if the physical level, as part of a larger reality, provides opportunities to participate in manifesting previously unexperienced potentials, we as physically individualized (but not psychically separate) expressions of consciousness can contribute to that expanding manifestation as we keep on learning. We can keep on expanding our capacity for pleasure, physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual, while noting the warning signal of pain when we are over-reaching in some way and/or neglecting other actions which are required for survival in this physical world.
ASTROLOGY: One of many conceptual models which describe the desires of life. There are many models of life, including psychological personality systems and a variety of occult models such as palmistry and numerology. Astrology is an exceptionally useful model since it provides a way to see the state of consciousness at any given point in space-time. The planets are not creating or influencing the plants, animals, humans, etc. which are entering the physical world as individualized expressions of consciousness, but the planets provide a way to see the local/current desires being explored/expressed. They are a visible way to see the cosmic order, both in space and in time, since their systematic motions can be projected into the past and into the future. All of the basic life desires are present at all times, but the emphasis constantly changes. Metaphorically, the information provided by each combination that is symbolizing life’s desires is similar to having a class schedule. Instead of knowing that the next class period will focus on mathematics while the one after that will study history, astrology points out that one period will emphasize learning to compromise, while another calls for building more self-confidence, still another says it is time to be really realistic about the physical world, or to remember the spiritual, more inclusive, dimensions of reality. The predictable class schedule shows the timing and the issues. The individualized expressions of consciousness, the different life forms, create the detailed results by choosing (mostly subconsciously, controlled by habits) from their repertoire of possible responses.
ISSUES: Situations/conditions where multiple responses are available which will produce different consequences. Choices increase with increases in awareness, in sources and types of information, in flexibility, versatility, etc. Rigid habits, especially in subconscious beliefs, and/or intense, uncontrollable emotions, limit choices even when expanded information is available.
REINCARNATION: An expansion of the theory of evolution which extends the process of increasing complexity and consequent capacities across alternating experiences in the physical level and in other (psychic) forms of consciousness. The theory is also broadened by applying it to individualized expressions of consciousness in addition to groups such as species. Individualized expressions of spirit/consciousness enter the physical world wherever/whenever conditions are suitable. Oak tree consciousness enters available acorns. Tube worm consciousness enters newly born tube worms. Humans enter the embryos of parents in cultures which fit an on-going collection of habits/capacities and which will provide an opportunity to change the less satisfying habits and to further develop the capacities. The sky provides a convenient way to see the set of desires available at any given point in space-time. Many forms of life may enter at the same point, but the previous habits/nature of each will determine the way and the extent to which they can deal with information and satisfy their desires.
As a metaphor, picture each individualized expression of consciousness as a piece in a jig saw puzzle. It can only fit in the puzzle where it finds related emotional/cognitive capacities and habits. When it changes its capacities and habits, it shifts to another place in the puzzle where it has different experiences.
This view of reincarnation is closer to the Buddhist than to the Hindu concept. Details vary among different teachers, but in general, the Hindus see unchanging, already perfect souls sending down portions of themselves to experience physical lives on earth. The Buddhists see streams of consciousness connected by shared desires and information (including memories), in a constantly changing process of growth. I think that most concepts of reincarnation accept continuous interaction on psychic levels of reality, with each physically individualized but not psychically separate expression of consciousness contributing to the manifestation of previously unexperienced potentials.
MEMORY: Information about the past which is believed to be an accurate description of it, but which is actually always selective and partial, and constantly being revised as changing experiences change interpretations/evaluations. Some presumed “memories” are whole-cloth fabrications from fragments that, like dreams, are often a mixture from both internal and external sources.
SCIENCE: (Ideal) The various sciences are collections of theories about reality which are tested in systematic ways and revised when results demand it. Science is looking for a TOE, a “Theory of Everything,” a single model, preferably mathematical, which will describe and explain all experience.
SCIENCE: (real) The human approximation of the above ideal includes the gamut of human motivations: objectivity, subjectivity, selflessness, selfishness, secretiveness, claim-jumping, cheating, refusing to look at or believe evidence which challenges current beliefs, and protecting personal theories as long as possible—sometimes until the believers/supporters of the outgrown theories die (discard their physical bodies).
RELIGION: The various religions are collections of theories about reality which are not tested but are accepted as true through belief in a spiritual leader, a holy book, or other trusted sources. Western-origin religions each describe their God as “the one, true God,” and He is seen as separate from His creation. (Western science grew from those roots and their Holy Grail is the TOE, the “one true theory of everything.”) Eastern religions, mystics everywhere, and an increasing number of modern “liberal” sects in the west describe a God who is immanent (within, not separate) as well as transcendent.
TRUTH: Theories temporarily believed to be accurate descriptions/explanations of the world. Since “final truth” and the nature of “ultimate reality” cannot be proved, attempts to describe them remain theories, subject to change if new experiences discredit them. Western scientists who assume that physical matter/energy is ultimate reality and that truth is limited to information from physical sources are holding religious beliefs, accepted by faith in authorities or so automatically taken-for-granted that doubting them is inconceivable. Though the nature of ultimate reality cannot be proved, the theories of materialism have been discredited and disproved by research in parapsychology, spiritual healing, and near-death experiences, as well as by the personal experiences of everyone willing to consider the possibility of a psychic reality beyond the physical world. Materialistic science is the equivalent of trying to describe and understand the whole world based on what can be seen looking through a keyhole.
MATERIALISM/REDUCTIONISM: Western science tries to define everything in terms of its physical substance. The English language especially pushes us in that direction when a basic word like “everything” classifies the Whole as made up of “things.” My definitions are obviously of reality as experience, as a process with functions and goals, using substance but not determined by it. HOW consciousness interacts with physical substances remains a mystery. Obviously, consciousness uses the physical brain, nerves, sense organs, endocrine glands, etc., but that it transcends them is demonstrated by psychic experiences which provide accurate information or produce effects without a physical contact, as in distant spiritual healing.
CAUSE: Materialistic science uses a concept which combines two of Aristotle’s four types of cause: “material” cause, which is the substance out of which an effect is produced, and “efficient” cause, which is the force or agency producing the effect. The latter is, of course, also reduced to physical matter/energy when science defines cause. Aristotle added “formal” cause, which is the pattern to which the effect conforms, and “final” cause, which is the purpose of the action. The materialistic belief system sees consciousness as an epiphenomenon, a byproduct without influence which is created by physical matter/energy, so patterns are determined by the nature of the physical substance functioning according to the “laws” of the natural world. These “laws” are observed regularities assumed to be eternal and unchanging. They are the materialist’s substitute for God. All causes are reduced ultimately to physical matter/energy.
Chaos theory has discovered the importance of patterns (which are models or systems of information). The same patterns (simple, repetitive mathematical equations) are manifested by a variety of substances at different levels of complexity. The pattern/model/information is clearly primary, in some way determining the form of the physical substances.
The biological sciences which deal with living forms have been forced to acknowledge the importance of teleology, the pull of anticipations of the future, in addition to the influence of past experiences. Aristotle’s formal causes or patterns (conceptual models/theories) and final causes (desired goals) become increasingly important, being used as information sources as consciousness increases in complexity. The evidence of psychic phenomena demonstrates the ability of consciousness to function independently of physical matter/energy, so I am suggesting that the purpose of an action, the desired goal, is the most important cause of the action, and information helps reach the desired goals. Major new potentials open up when embodied consciousness is able to expand its sources of information, to become aware of the larger realities (potential experiences) beyond the physical world.
PERFECTION: What is considered ultimately desirable/pleasurable by an individualized expression of consciousness. The varieties of perfection conceived by different life forms may be as infinite as consciousness. A very limited sample includes many varieties of absolutes: love, peace, beauty, harmony, power, wisdom, goodness/ethics/morality, etc. Some humans define the latter as a refusal to harm anything, while others define it as carrying out their theory about God’s will, which included the Inquisition.
PARADISE/HEAVEN: A theoretical place or state defined as perfect and eternal, when time and change end. A very limited sample of preferred models includes: an end to consciousness, only love, only peace, pleasure/bliss without any informational content, omniscience, omnipotence, true believers worshipping and praising God while unbelievers suffer in Hell, all the beautiful, sexually available houris one could desire, all the animals one could desire available for hunting without any human death or illness, etc.
GOALS: Experiences which life forms want to approach or avoid. We give the name “pleasure” to experiences which life/consciousness seeks, and call “pain” what is normally avoided. The relative emphasis can shift from an increased focus on attaining, maintaining, or intensifying pleasure to avoiding, reducing, or escaping pain. The choice to move toward pain seems to be based on the belief that immediate pain will eventually produce a greater pleasure. For example, some religious believers injure their own bodies, believing that this negation of the physical world will produce bliss in a spiritual realm. Many people give up pleasurable food to avoid getting fat. Athletes accept and “push through” pain to test and expand their limits in strength, endurance, speed, etc.
What is defined as pleasurable is obviously different for tube worms and humans, but even among humans, there are major variations. Some prefer a life of moderation which avoids any extremes. Some find pleasure in testing the limits, risking death to test and expand their capacity to probe the extremes. It is possible that the wild, exuberant variety of life forms in the physical world and the testing of limits is an indication of an underlying, more basic goal of consciousness than pleasure—the desire to do more than has been done before even when it is painful. Extremes can range from the sociopath discovering the limits of self-absorption to the self-sacrificing savior/martyr. When species evolve beyond sustainable limits, they become extinct, whether through over-population, inability to adapt to changing circumstances, or other confrontations with limits. To each its own as each physically individualized (but not psychically separate) expression of consciousness participates in manifesting the unmanifested potentials. We go on learning by acting and observing the consequences. Bon Voyage.
CONSCIOUSNESS MODEL of Dr. James Pottenger, founder and president of CCRS.
Consciousness is a collective consciousness that expresses in humans on multiple levels.
Level 1 sees cause (power) as external, separate, objective, and it defines knowledge as a collection of accurate facts about the world. It is accepted as an objective fact that you need car keys to drive your car unless you know how to connect wires to start it without a key. That has been a consistent past experience and is expected to persist in the future. We go to bed at night assuming that gravity will still be functioning normally when we wake up, that we will not wake up floating against the ceiling. If we are too hot and have an effective, functioning air conditioner, it is assumed that turning it on will improve our comfort. If it does not do what we expect, we call an expert repair person to fix it.
Behavioral psychology is limited to this level, believing that it is dealing with physical brains that react automatically to external stimuli. Humans are believed to be created by and to be victims of their environment. Individuals with any type of problem, including emotional, cognitive, and spiritual problems, are assumed to require an external power, an expert “behavioral engineer,” to fix them. Few would deny that there is a place in the world for outside experts, for help from those with greater knowledge and skills. Most people do need car keys to drive their cars, and they need to know that drivers in England drive on the left side of the street, while in the U.S. the law of the society requires driving on the right. Level 1 is an essential part of life, with important skills for survival in the physical world, but it is not the whole show. It typically produces a state of vulnerability, convinced that other people/events/situations make us feel angry/fearful/ happy, etc.
Level 2 discovers inner power. For example, an individual who regularly becomes angry may realize or be told by a counselor that a reaction of anger to something said or done by a spouse is not “caused” by the spouse, but is based on a personal evaluation of the situation. The action of the spouse has been judged to be wrong/threatening/ intolerable in some way, and the action is being seen as the “cause” of the anger. But the Level 2 insight is that both the judgment and the angry response are inner psychological habits rather than something “caused,” “controlled,” or “imposed” by the external world. And habits can be changed. The habit of reacting to a spouse with anger might be replaced by a calmer discussion of different desires which permits finding a compromise. A low self-esteem and feelings of helplessness can be altered by developing new skills or even by just looking more at existing skills and less at weaknesses and past failures. Our beliefs determine the meaning we assign to our experiences, and beliefs are not final truth.
Humanistic psychology and a variety of schools of cognitive psychology focus on level 2, helping individuals uncover subconscious habits and work to change them. Many metaphysical and self-help teachers also work on Level 2, helping individuals discover inner power. However, most of these teachers offer a mixture of Levels 1 and 2. Most still believe that we can directly experience a separate and objective world, and they see knowledge as composed of “facts” which are based on “proven” scientific theories or on social consensus. Contributions to the realization by philosophers and psychologists that personal (often subconscious) beliefs play a decisive role in human actions have come from Kant, Wittgenstein, and Freud, among many others. Dr. Pottenger emphasizes this relatively recent and still largely ignored realization that our language, our conceptual models, literally create our “mental” world, our beliefs about the nature of reality, truth, morality, etc. This insight opens up a second phase in Level 2, permitting a deeper awareness of how completely we create our personal experiences of the world. In the theories of many philosophers during the past two hundred years, this “deconstruction” of the human mind can produce a profound alienation. If we grant that our experienced reality is ALWAYS a subjective evaluation, that we deal ONLY with psychological beliefs, not objective facts and final truth, a nihilism can result which Nietzsche called the “Death of God.” Though the existence of a world beyond our own minds is acknowledged, in these descriptions of the “post-modern mind,” the world remains forever unknowable for those who maintain the Level 1 belief in separateness. But this is not the whole story!
Dr. Pottenger’s model includes Level 3 consciousness, which experiences itself as an individualized expression of a larger Whole that includes the physical world and much more. Level 3 consciousness recognizes and experiences the connectedness of everything, the interaction of consciousness in all levels of reality. Like a living piece in an infinitely large jig saw puzzle, we play our role where we “fit” in the puzzle/play. When we change our “shape,” our fellow players, the puzzle pieces around us, also change. If they are unable or unwilling to change to match our “new shape,” they depart from our vicinity and new, more fitting player/pieces join us. If we resign from a “victim” role, we no longer need a “savior” attached to us, so the professional savior will go looking for a new victim. If we prefer experiencing joy instead of anger, we no longer attract someone to whom anger is an essential part of life. Our inner and outer states/levels of consciousness are an equation. The world and the self are an inseparable whole, so we experience our world as a mirror, an echo
Level 3 is being explored by transpersonal psychology and a variety of religious seekers who are not locked into a dogmatic belief that final truth has already been revealed. Dr. Pottenger calls his theoretical system Holographic Psychology, and CCRS invites any interested students (who do not think they have already found final truth) to join the party.
We began this essay with definitions. Obviously, the same word may be defined quite differently by individuals viewing the world from different levels. As indicated in my original definitions, I see reality/consciousness as an evolving process. The creation of the physical world of space-time allows consciousness to experiment with apparent separation, to permit discrimination, and to manifest previously unmanifested potentials of the Whole. Prior to the 17th century, except for a few philosophers in ancient Greece, most humans accepted the reality of non-physical worlds and beings which were also experienced as external and separate. Almost everyone experienced these other worlds and beings in dreams. A few individuals would develop a special skill in contacting and trying to influence non-physical beings, who were believed to be the dead ancestors of living individuals and a variety of gods and demons. The specialists in dealing with the non-physical realms are today generically called shamans.
The western monotheistic religions originated in the Near East when a tribal god of the Hebrews was promoted to be a universal creator of everything, though still believed to favor the Hebrews as His “Chosen People.” Christianity and Islam grew from those Jewish roots, but all continued to believe in an external, separate, all-powerful God. As tribal groups became larger and more complex, the number of specialized skills increased. A few human rulers in each group would become surrogates for the Gods, often claiming to be the literal offspring of a God. If the roles were not played by the same individuals, the humans who determined the official acceptable beliefs of the proliferating religious organizations also became the surrogates of God, with life and death power over their fellow humans similar to that wielded by the secular monarchs.
There were always some individuals who experienced Level 3 consciousness, but they normally shifted back and forth between Levels 1 and 3. In the western religions, mystics who experienced union with the Absolute and dared to talk about it were usually denounced as heretics. After they died and no longer posed a threat to the established church, some became revered as saints. In the East, a number of religions developed which taught that mystical experiences of oneness WERE the ultimate reality and goal of life. But as far as earth was concerned, the end result of the two was not that different. Most major religions of both East and West tended to see the physical world as a place/state to escape. Life’s goal was to return to the “Perfect Source” from which life and the earth originated. To accomplish this directly and quickly, individuals could retire to monasteries or become hermits in caves, depending for their food on “less spiritual” people who went on raising crops and were willing to share them.
A variation of Level 1 appeared in the West in the 17th and 18th centuries. Instead of seeing the physical world as something to escape in order to reach a separate, higher, more perfect world, an increasing number of humans turned their attention toward controlling the physical world and their fellow humans. Conquering, enslaving, and sometimes eating their fellow humans was not new for humans, but the science developed by the increased focus on understanding and controlling nature led to what is known as the industrial revolution. As science narrowed its focus to the physical world, the knowledge of how to control it grew beyond the wildest imaginings of pre-literate people. Knowledge begat more knowledge, inventions begat more inventions, as the dismissal of concern with anything other than the physical world dominated most institutions of higher education, and more effective theories and techniques brought fame, money, and power to their promoters. The success of science and technology seemed to justify the philosophy of materialism, the belief that reality is limited to the physical world. Machines became the scientific model for the world, from the forces of nature to self-conscious humans.
Many, if not most, people in the world continue to function on Level 1, with the most educated tending to accept the materialistic belief system of modern science. (Those with some psychological understanding beyond Behaviorism usually incorporate some Level 2 inner power in their lives.) Many more people still believe (or at least hope) that there is a separate, different, and better world somewhere beyond the physical one. Level 1 individuals deal as best they can with many forms of what they see as separate external power. They try to attain desires and to avoid pain, using information assumed to provide facts. Even when a full intellectual understanding of Level 2 has been realized, it is not easy to change habitual emotional reactions and largely subconscious beliefs. And Level 1 remains essential for dealing with car keys even after individuals are able to experience all three levels of consciousness.
It is possible that humans had to go through the phase of materialism, which allowed them to question “revealed truth,” to break out of the stranglehold of the orthodox religions. For the most part, both the Eastern and Western belief systems denied any major value to the physical world. Except for a few individuals who had wealth and power, earth was a vale of tears to be escaped. Once it was realized that ordinary people could improve their lives here, it was not such a big step to rediscover what had certainly been recognized by many thinkers in the past, including some of the well-known Greek philosophers. Philosophy and its offspring, modern psychology, saw that personal emotions and theories/beliefs were a major influence in human lives, that some outer events could be changed by changing inner states and consequent reactions, and that some individuals, perhaps with a little guidance and encouragement, could do this themselves. Science opened Pandora’s box to allow many more individuals to discover Level 2. Physics, the study of what were supposedly the energy particles of ultimate reality, remained the “queen” of the sciences. Psychology, aspiring to also become a respected science, divorced itself from philosophy and took to testing its models/theories. The more humans looked at themselves, the more they realized that humans could change their own habitual reactions if they became conscious of their desires, were able to conceive alternative responses, and were willing to make the necessary sustained efforts it takes to change habits. They needed information about the role being played by their own habitual beliefs, and an intense desire to change.
Many schools of psychology, including cognitive and humanistic, operate in this first stage of Level 2. They have not realized that ALL experiences are colored by subconscious beliefs which automatically assign meaning to the experiences, but they can help clients uncover some of the subconscious beliefs and emotions which are affecting their lives. Biofeedback teaches people to control internal states by providing information about them, by bringing the subconscious states into conscious awareness. Thousands of individuals are discovering that body systems once considered totally outside of conscious control, such as the autonomic nervous system, can be influenced by conscious desire when the individual is given information about them. Such experiences are deeply empowering.
Freud was a pioneer in recognizing the power of subconscious emotions and habits to influence human lives, though he remained a materialist, seeing genetics and one’s early environment as the causes of human behavior. A variety of psychological “schools” have sprouted from his work. In addition to the analytic, humanistic, and cognitive psychologies, hypnosis and a wide range of “self-help” books and groups mostly focus on helping people discover and handle this preliminary stage of Level 2. Their emphasis is on uncovering the role an individual’s habitual emotions and beliefs play in determining his or her life, and on helping individuals change their inner states in order to improve their lives. The focus is on recognizing and using inner power with an implicit (sometimes explicit as with Albert Ellis) continuing belief in objectivity, and a primary if not total focus on coping more effectively with what is assumed to be an external, separate, material world that is mechanistic and meaningless.
Medicine is beginning to acknowledge this initial Level 2 potential: e.g., discovering that depression can partially shut down the immune system, and that optimists live longer and stay healthier. Though they are starting to recognize that some of the power/causes influencing health are inner emotions, most doctors, like behavioral psychologists, still are taught and use the Level 1 machine model for the body. The official position of the Western Medical Establishment is that a problem in the physical body requires an external physical solution prescribed by an external expert. Articles are written about problems with patients who are not compliant; that us they don’t follow the doctor’s orders.
Holistic doctors and other health practitioners exploring “complementary” or “alternative” healing methods tend to be more open to the basic “starter” theory of Level 2 that some power/cause is inside and that humans can learn to consciously affect/change their inner psychological state, which will then change their bodily health and maybe even their outer circumstances and events in their lives. However, as described above, a full awareness of Level 2 includes a second stage which has yet to be discovered by most of the writers, teachers, and practitioners of the first stage. Materialists may be unable to accept the second stage of Level 2, since it sees non-physical consciousness, the emotions and theories/beliefs of the person, as the primary power driving his or her actions.
While the materialistic psychologists like Skinner and Ellis continued in their allegiance to 19th century physics, 20th century insights are opening a new section in Pandora’s box. The new theories of Chaos and Complexity and the quantum level of reality are challenging the old reductionism/materialism. It is getting harder to find any kind of “solid substance,” and harder to justify the belief in separation. Even physical objects and organisms are composed of electrons which are in constant motion, flowing in and out of and being exchanged with other objects and organisms. Each of a pair of electrons sent flying in different directions seem to “know” what the other is doing without any obvious contact to convey the information. Cutting-edge physics is beginning to look like pre-17th century individuals who lived in Level 1 consciousness, but periodically ventured into psychic areas and experienced them as bizarre foreign worlds.
Modern popular metaphysics grew out of Level 3 mystical experiences by individuals who did not understand the second stage of Level 2, that all experience is filtered through (mostly) subconscious beliefs. So, the original leaders, including Troward, Eddy, and Holmes, tended to “flip” between the levels, often producing work that seemed contradictory. While focused on the Level 2 inner power to change oneself and thereby to change one’s life, they mixed in the “absolute” power of the Level 3 Whole, and made individuals the total cause of everything that happened in their lives. Statements such as “You are God” implied that an individual was the Whole rather than a part of Universal Consciousness. Saying that “You create your own reality” is only helpful if we understand that it is our accepted, subconscious beliefs and evaluations based on them which create our own experiences of the world. It becomes a grandiosity seen as schizophrenic by materialists if the statement is interpreted as crediting human consciousness with the power to control nature, including producing or preventing earthquakes. Some of the psychics who predicted 10 magnitude earthquakes in Los Angeles several years ago are dealing with the egg on their faces by suggesting that Californians delayed the quakes by raising their level of consciousness. The belief that the negative consciousness in living beings causes quakes and other disasters gives a lot of power to the consciousness of fish. There are more quakes in the ocean than on land. More destructive results can come from an acceptance of the statement of popular metaphysics that we should be able to have anything we want and can visualize. If really believed, this can encourage narcissistic con artists and sociopaths, leading to the attitude that “if the world does not give me what I want, I have the right to take it.”
In the same text or lecture about the power of visualization (a form of magic designed to coerce the world) which is supposed to produce one’s desired life, the metaphysician is likely to bring in God as the Source and Whole, and to advise letting go and letting God do it all. This is a call to the passive mysticism of Level 3, opting out of any power or responsibility to deal with either Level 1 or Level 2. The concept of God and a wider reality beyond the physical world is a helpful reminder of Level 3 IF we are seen as a participating part of the wider consciousness, sharing in the manifestation of its potentials. But, even though they are made in a metaphysical context, such statements tend to “flip” the average listener back into early, traditional religious teaching from a Level 1 state of consciousness which sees God as “other and separate” from His creation, doing what we want for us if we pray properly. In Level 3 consciousness, the Whole is both immanent and transcendent. An additional problem with popular metaphysics is its tendency to make “thinking” the power, failing to recognize the primary role of emotions. Guilt, or feelings of personal inadequacy and failure, are then added to any other previous sources of pain when thinking alone, imaging what is desired, does not produce a perfect life and the person’s immediate world does not improve.
A fully aware individualized expression of consciousness in the physical world needs to be able to discriminate the time and place when personal action is appropriate, the time and place where compromise and cooperation are needed, and the time and place where we have done what we can in Levels 1 and 2 and have reached the limits of our personal capacity as humans. If we can then open up to Level 3, to the Whole, miracles can happen.
Once the three levels have been intellectually defined, it is a fascinating game to analyze the various components in psychological texts trying to be accepted as science, in popular self-help books and tapes, in the speculations of philosophers, and in metaphysical/spiritual offerings. In anthropological descriptions of groups prior to contact with western “civilization,” tribal people lived in a mixture of Level 1 and glimpses of Level 3, without conscious understanding of the latter. They were aware of the psychic realities beyond the physical world, but saw them as just an extension of the physical world, equally external, objective, and separate. Illness and other misfortunes without obvious physical causes (Level 1) might be blamed on witchcraft by human enemies or on angry gods. When they could, the humans used physical Level 1 actions to solve problems. When such efforts failed, they resorted to actions designed to affect the psychic worlds. They used prayers and offerings if the external, harmful power was believed to be so invincible it could only be propitiated. Magic was used if the external power could be coerced.
Many astrologers hold similar beliefs, seeing the planets as external powers affecting everything on earth. Eastern astrology, which tends to see the planets as gods, counsels believers to wear special gems, to perform rituals, and to make offerings to propitiate the planetary gods. Western astrologers, influenced by the pervasive materialism of science, believe in “force fields” and “vibrations.” Both Eastern and Western astrologers try to choose times for action when there is maximum harmony in the patterns in the sky, when its external power is presumed to be more favorable. The motto is “do what you want on the good days and stay in bed on the bad days.”
As in psychology and medicine, astrology students are beginning to recognize its Level 2 potential. An increasing number of individuals are considering the possibility that the sky symbolizes basic life desires, that it is a convenient way to see the current/local state of the evolving cosmic mind, that the sky is a clock, showing time, but not creating it. Desires are the drivers behind actions. We can see our desires in the mirror in the sky, and can try to satisfy our desires in a variety of ways. If we change those ways, change our beliefs, attitudes and actions, we change our lives. Level 2 astrology is psychology, but with an advantage over much of psychology, since many, if not most, students of astrology have gone beyond materialism to become aware of the realities beyond the physical world. Some are certainly experiencing glimpses of Level 3. Psychology professor Richard Tarnas emphasizes the potential of astrology to heal the alienation which followed Descartes’ limitation of consciousness and meaning to humans, making the rest of the world totally “other” and “foreign.” Astrology reconnects us to our world. In the words of Tarnas, it restores soul to the world. It demonstrates the pre-materialistic insight of the mystics, “As above, so below, as within, so without.”
Most humans probably still live almost totally on Level 1. Increasing psychological insight is opening Level 2 to more people, but few grasp the full implications of their pervasive and mostly subconscious evaluations which are based on their beliefs. Even very self-aware individuals mostly think they are dealing directly with an objective separate world composed of facts. Mystics describe Level 3 experiences of “Oneness,” but it is only possible to communicate effectively with others who have also had the experiences, and then there is no need for descriptions or explanations. To quote Dr. Pottenger, “on Level 3, we learn by ‘awakening’ to the infinite potentials of the Whole. Humanity is starting to wake up.”